As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games countdown gets underway, a young Kiwi is named among the first karate athletes to ever compete at an edition of the Olympic Games.
17-year-old Raukawa Jefferies (Hamilton Boys High School) has been selected to contest the men’s +68kg kumite category at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
The Hamilton athlete gained selection after placing 1st in his age group at the Oceania Karate Championships.
“I’m pretty amped and really excited to represent New Zealand at the Youth Olympic Games. The competitiveness is what I love about karate, I like a challenge and the sport really pushes me,” said Jefferies.
Buenos Aires 2018 will be the first-time karate has been on any Olympic programme. The sport will make its full Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which kicks off in two years time tomorrow (eds 24 July).
Sports new to the Olympic programme are often trialled at youth level before they debut at the Summer or Winter Olympic Games and the New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith is delighted that the naming of New Zealand's first karate athlete takes place marking this significant milestone.
"It's fantastic for us to have a Kiwi among the very first to compete in the new Olympic sport," said Smith. "We've got two years until the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Youth Olympic experience will give both Raukawa and his support team an important insight. We look forward to working with New Zealand karate athletes into the future and congratulate Raukawa on his achievement.
Jefferies says he’s put in a lot of hard work and is proud to be the first New Zealander to compete in karate at an edition of the Olympic Games.
“I’ve been training for this for two years. I went to Croatia and Bulgaria for tournaments which was pretty awesome and I’ve been training six mornings a week, Monday to Saturday, then I do either gym or speed work every weekday after school.”
The 2018 Youth Olympic Games will be the third summer youth Games, following those in Singapore in 2010 and Nanjing in 2014.
The Games are a development opportunity for the world's most promising young athletes, allowing them to experience a multi-sport games environment while exposing them to learning and cultural opportunities and helping them on the performance pathway.
Karate New Zealand Coaching Coordinator Andy Roosen says Jeffries is an impressive athlete who is constantly trying to better himself.
“Raukawa's been working towards this goal for a long time and has entered every international competition possible in order to gain experience.
“He’s a very dedicated athlete and is ready and excited for the challenge."
The reserve athlete (non-travelling) conditionally selected for the Games is Chase Hennessey.
The Youth Olympic Games run from October 6–18, 2018, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.